FAVOURABLE spring and early summer temperatures combined with above-average soil moisture in most regions have boosted yield estimates for the European Union’s winter and spring crops, with the outlook now sitting well above the five-year average.
Once the cooler temperatures of May gave way to warmer days throughout June, crop development accelerated, and extended grain-fill periods are being experienced in many districts. There are parts of Italy and Portugal that have been on the dry side, but below-average temperatures have limited negative impacts. On the flip side, parts of the Baltic and neighbouring regions have been relatively wet, which has limited yield potential. Excessive cloud cover in northern Germany and southern Denmark has limited radiation during the critical flowering period, slightly decreasing yield potential as a result.
According to the latest crop-monitoring bulletin from JRC MARS, this year’s wheat harvest will average 5.79 tonnes per hectare (t/ha). This is 1.6 per cent higher than the May projection of 5.70t/ha and sits 5.8pc above the five-year average of 5.47t/ha.
Soft wheat the winner
The big winner has been the soft wheat crop, where the average yield is forecast at 6.01t/ha, 1.7pc higher than the May number and 5.6pc higher than the five-year average of 5.69t/ha. The yield increase in the durum wheat crop is not as impressive, with MARS calling it 3.57t/ha this year, just 2.2pc above the five-year average of 3.49t/ha.
On the barley front, MARS is predicting an average yield of 4.97t/ha, 4.2pc higher than the five-year average of 4.77t/ha. Looking at the breakdown, it is definitely the spring-planted crops that are letting the team down. The winter and spring barley crops are predicted to yield 5.9t/ha and 4.28t/ha, respectively, 4.9pc and 3.9pc above the five-year average.
French harvest rolling
Like the Tour de France, which commenced in the north-west of the country on the weekend, so too the French winter-crop harvest has begun. On Friday of last week, FranceAgriMer advised that 1pc of the winter barley crop was in the bin as of June 21, down from 2pc on the same week in 2020.
The French farm office also released its latest wheat and barley crop ratings with a slight deterioration across the board in the week to June 21. Nevertheless, the crop is still sitting above average for this time in the season, and there is expected to be a sharp rebound in production compared to the poor harvest in 2020.
The soft wheat crop rating came in at 79pc good to excellent, down from 81pc a week earlier. The durum wheat rating fell three percentage points week on week to 67pc good to excellent. The winter barley crop was rated 75pc good to excellent, down 1pc on the June 14 rating. On the whole, the spring barley crop is in better condition at 84pc good to excellent, but it did lose two percentage points across the week.
Cool spring felt in Germany
In Germany, the wheat, barley and rapeseed crops all suffered from below-average growth in the cool early spring weather, but a much warmer June and good soil moisture has enabled crops in most regions to catch up.
According to Germany’s Association of Farm Co-operatives, the crops were about two to three weeks behind normal development in May, but are now only about one week to 10 days behind.
EU wheat up on last year
The European Commission updated production estimates for its 27 member countries last Thursday. The output of what they refer to as usable soft wheat was trimmed by 400,000t to 125.8 million tonnes (Mt) compared to the agency’s May forecast. If realised, that would put the 2021 crop 7.3pc higher than the drought-affected total of 117.2Mt last year.
The Commission pegged soft wheat exports from the EU-27 at 30Mt for the 2021-22 marketing year, which commences on Thursday. This represents an 11pc increase on the 27Mt of wheat exports projected in the current marketing year.
However, a couple of key internal EU wheat-demand categories were also revised higher in this month’s report.
The quantity of wheat expected to be used in stockfeed rations and biofuel both increased by 300,000t to 41.3Mt and 3.4Mt respectively.
Meanwhile, the Commission expects wheat imports into the EU-27 to total 2.7Mt in the coming marketing year. Ending stocks are expected to total 10.1Mt on June 30, 2022, down from the May estimate of 10.8Mt but 22.7pc higher than the 8.8Mt likely to be in reserve when the 2020-21 marketing year concludes this week.
According to the Commission, usable barley production across the EU member states is forecast at 53.5Mt, down 1Mt from the May estimate and 6pc lower than the final 2020-21 production number. The Commission revised last year’s barley harvest 2.1Mt higher to 56.9Mt on the back of robust exports but ample supply. This pushed ending stocks for the 2021-22 marketing year to 8.4Mt compared to 6.8Mt in last month’s report.
On the rapeseed front, the Commission left its May production estimate unchanged at 16.7Mt in last week’s update. However, it did raise member country imports by 400,000t to 62Mt in 2021-22, on par with imports in the current marketing year.
Higher production will be the order of the day across the 27 European Union member states this harvest. This should see export volumes, particularly from France, into traditional northern African homes return to pre-drought levels. No doubt competition from the Black Sea region will be intense as the region forges new export partnerships, but there is always China as the French so readily entertained in the current marketing year.